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INTERVIEWS
UNSILENCE INTERVIEW FOR ELYSIUM ZINE

1/ Hello Kieron, I am glad that you have time for an interview with a quite obscure fanzine. I must admit that Unsilence are the main reason for me to publish another issue after more than eight years. In my opinion your band should attract way more attention. When your new album "A Fire from the Sea" came out only a few people took notice of it. I can’t remember even a single review in a big metal magazine here in Germany. Musical quality and publicity are totally out of propertion in your case. I hope it is going better for you in England. How do you feel about the status which Unsilence equired in their 22 years of existence?

KIERON TUOHEY Hi Christian. I must also thank you or taking the time to interview with quite an obscure band. It's always good to speak to someone who gets what we are about instead simplistically dismissing us as a clone of whoever. It's best to never forget that recognition isn't a meritocracy and a degree of randomness is involved. As good as it is to be told we're underrated, all the album sales, people who enjoy us, people who dislike us or the general apathy towards us is just there. We're not bitter about any perceived under achievement and think about what we have achieved: having a musical vision and working to attain that, over 20 years of activity and having built some kind of following despite the multitude of other bands they could have supported instead.

Although Nine Records, who released the last album are a small label with limited resources, it's a bit strange that there hasn't been any German reviews as that's where we seem to be most known. But the latest album has probably sold more in Germany than most other places. The strongest buzz has certainly come from there. I've always been impressed with the level of German support we've acquired. Even back to when we released "Transfiguration". It certainly wouldn't have been the case had we been a German band being distributed over here. If it wasn't for the fact that we're from here and know people and have played gigs here, then we'd be completely unknown. As far as I know, there's only been one review over here of the latest album (Doom Metal Heaven). There's also the fact that we've been limited in recent years as our vocalist/ has been back in college and we also don't have a permanent drummer.

 

2/ Which view do you gained through the years on the Doom scene? Is there anything you miss in comparision to earlier days or are things nowdays in general better than in the past?

 

KIERON TUOHEY I have good memories of around ten years ago when everything was going online. It was good to see a coherent scene developing and an opportunity for views to be expressed, albums and gig to be promoted like never before, even. And of course out of this coming together, there was gigs and festivals.
This is all now commonplace and some of the more active participants have moved on or are less active. And also there's the growth of Facebook over the forums which isn't quite the same. But that burst of activity and the capability to communicate and bring people together for the first time like never before was something very special.

 

3/ When I listen to bands like Solstice, Warning, Mourn or Unsilence I can feel a specific engine vibe or expression which no foreign band is able to copy. Would you say that your homeland influences the way you play music?

 

KIERON TUOHEY I often get asked this and I find it difficult as we don't have a nationalist viewpoint or anything. But I guess there's the history, weather and the unique heritage that we're surrounded by in a daily basis which shapes us. In particular, where we live in the north were close to (or in my case nowadays, live among) plenty of lower hills and moorland which have a real desolate aura to them. But we don't go out of our way to adhere to a British sound.

 

4/ The band name is an interesting and evocative term. Do you had something special in mind when you came up with the idea to name your band Unsilence?

 

KIERON TUOHEY The origins of the name really aren't as shrouded in mystery as one might think. At the time we formed, a friend had a T-shirt of the black metal band Immortal and there was a lyrical quote on the back which contained the word Unsilent. That word struck me as a potential name for the band. Nothing more mysterious than that really.

 

5/ In 1997 you recorded an album called "Choirs of Memory". What was the reason for your decision to keep the songs under wraps? Is the music that terrible? Have you ever thought about to rerecord some of the songs of this album?

 

KIERON TUOHEY During the early years, there was an insane drive to move forward and the quality was compromised on a few occasions. The recording of the debut album was the culmination of this. We had problems with the engineer at the studio where we recorded it. It was where we did the demos but the engineer seemed to be falling apart and we had to get some one else in. Although he did his best, the production turned out unsatisfactory. As was the playing due to time wasted.

 

The album was mixed at Academy Studio. It was a more professional environment than we'd ever experienced and it was pivotal to how we develped in the future. The record deal we had for that album with Seven Art Music fell through just as we were ready to record the "Transfiguration" MCD and we naturally wanted that to be released over the album.We've also no interest in re-recording any of the songs from it. Even with improved production and playing, they're not the most focused songs we've ever written. It was also before our drummer Jonathon had settled into the band and started writing for us. That was a significant part of our progression. We do think it's of a generally low standard and that we evolved a great deal in the years after it. At that point we had a few line-up changes and I was writing all the music. And I wasn't at my most focused. And we naturally wanted the newer material to be released and heard

 

6/Some may discribe the unobstrusive voice of your old singer Andrew Hodson as monotonous. Was his vocal limitation deciding for his leaving? Is Andrew still doing music?

 

KIERON TUOHEY I'm now in touch with Andrew again after some time. So I consulted him about your question. There had been some criticism of his voice but it played no part in his departure. His reason for leaving was that he longer had an interest in being in the band. Although he reckons he might have struggled with some of the singing James has done. He hasn't done any music since but he still gets ideas and concepts.

 

7/ In consideration of the great voice of your new singer James Kilmurray it is surprising that he confined himself to play guitar in the band for many years. Did he not know what vocal skills he have?

 

KIERON TUOHEY First of all, I'm pleased to hear that you like James' voice. He does get some criticism which I've taken into consideration, have listened to him sing with those views in mind and have been none the wiser as to how his vocals have received some of the negative feedback that they have. But we liked his voice when we first heard him sing, without any outside opinion which could influence us, and only that matters. After all, it's not a case of checking with others first before we make a decision.

 

But anyway, it's weird to think that he might have been sitting on that talent for years. I don't think he'd done much singing before. We first heard him on a demo of a new song after Andrew had left. And that was only to demonstrate some ideas. But we thought he sounded good and told him that perhaps he should be our new vocalist. After a few months of contemplation he agreed.

 

8/ After 17 years of membership bass player David Elliott left the band in 2013. Has he lost the passion for playing music?

 

KIERON TUOHEY I don't actually know why Elliott left that band. He just stopped replying to our attempts to get in touch. He did express something about the lack of live activity in recent years. But ceasing activity as an alternative is bewildering. Maybe he has lost the passion for music but anything I could say would be speculation.

 

9/ Are you still in contact with past members?

 

KIERON TUOHEY We are in contact with most of them. Largely through Facebook as opposed to seeing them regularly. Actually, a few ex-members who we hadn't seen in years attended Jonathon's wedding reception back in August. But I'm pleased we're on good terms with most ex-members. Most of them haven't been involved in music since leaving.

 

10/ The production of both Unsilence albums differs clearly. At "Under a torn sky" the vocals are the most prominent part, while "A Fire on the Sea" has a more balanced transparent sound. Was this a conscious decision? And are you satisfied with the result?

 

KIERON TUOHEY We did "Under A Torn Sky" at a local studio who had recorded some metal bands we knew and we initially felt we were in safe hands. But we found there was differences with the engineer as we went along. He seemed to rate digital clarity above all else and we didn't feel the sound we got truly captured us. There's a bit too much of a digital harshness to it. Although the vinyl edition is closer to how it should sound.

 

We recorded "A Fire On The Sea" at another local studio, Full Stack Studio. I recorded there with The Human Condition before and and saw that their engineer, Matt was far better versed in what kind of band we were. We just had to record the next Unsilence album with him. And we're still extremely pleased with the sound we got.

 

11/ What are the main differences between the the Unsilence longplayers regarding the songwriting in your opinion? In my mind "Under a torn sky" is more dynamic and sweeping, whereas "A fire from the Sea" seems to be more compact and homogeneous.

 

KIERON TUOHEY I agree, that's a fair assessment of both the albums. With "Under A Torn Sky", it was written over a period of seven years and with two major line-up changes. Both of whom were involved in the songwriting. So we had to take the time to rebuild what we had. The album to me is in a few stages depending on who was in the band at the time. Some of the more melodic songs on that album like "Echoes Awaken" and "The Hour Of Arrival" where done when James had taken over the vocals. There was a new way of writing as the vocal melodies were coming from those who were writing the music. And the melody became the focal point for that time.With the writing of “A Fire on the Sea”, what was new to us when James took over the vocals had become regular and I think we were able to balance the different elements of our style a bit more. And we ended up making an album which was heavier album and more aggressive within the kind of sound that we've developed. it was a part of us that we needed to explore after the conditions which led to the last album.

 

12/ The acoustic piece "Old Tides" of your new work sounds like an old melancholic folk song. It is for sure one of the most beautiful tunes I ever heard. Do you had a special inspiration for that song?

 

KIERON TUOHEY I'm really pleased that you feel that way about "Old Tides". I wrote the guitar line on the chorus back in 1998 on a draft of a song which we didn't use. In fact, Jonathon is using some of the riffs on a new Human Condition song. Anyway, a few years ago, I was making a number of trips to Anglesey, an island off the coast of North Wales as my father in law had a caravan there. I don't know if it was the vibe of the area but that guitar line on the chorus started buzzing round in my mind. And I fancied using it on what was then the forthcoming album. Especially as it was shaping to be a heavier album with less acoustic pieces. It would have made a nice contrast. So I built a brief instrumental around it and sent it to James. He sent it back having wrote wrote some vocals and lyrics to it.

 

13/ The cover artwork of your debut is full of symbolism and quite suggestive. The burning tree, which roots are reaching deeper than its boughs in height, has a strong imagery. When I view this picture I often think about existentialistic aspects of nature. There is a lot you can read into it: A dual principle, feelings of ambivalence and inner strife as the album title suggest. What does the picture express for you?

JAMES KILMURRAY
It sounds like the first album cover has inspired a lot of contemplation - I think you’ve made some really interesting points! I certainly agree there is a lot you can read in to it.

 

I also associate the picture with nature in a very raw form. Everything is in a state of change. The picture is filled with natural elemental forces (fire/earth/wind) and I think it complements the music well.

 

14/ The artwork of "A fire from the sea" is also very beautiful. Shall the gothic lattice only be decorative or has it a special meaning?

 

JAMES KILMURRAY Thanks for the compliment about the artwork. When I’m playing music I generally experience associated mental images and impressions, usually of specific colours and textures. Although the impressions vary with different musical parts, with Unsilence I commonly have very strong specific impressions. It would be difficult to put these impressions in to words, but the artwork for “A Fire on the Sea” is a good reflection in terms of colours and texture. I wanted the atmosphere of the album cover to reflect the atmosphere of the sound overall and I think it does (at least for me). The details on the lattice are mostly based on medieval tile designs. They were designed and used in part to reflect the lyrics but also to help shape the overall effect of the image.

 

15/ Is there something like a lyrical concept behind "A fire from the Sea"? It seems that you have a specific relation to the sea...

 

KIERON TUOHEY The lyrics to "A Fire On The Sea" we're inspired by a trip our vocalist/ guitarist James made to the west coast of Ireland a few years ago. He was making a trip to one of the Aran Islands, which are a small set of islands just off the coast. The island is covered in a patchwork of ancient stone walls and the raw, elemental atmosphere of the place resonated with the musical ideas we were working on. Whilst I don't think that the album has a lyrical concept as such, that experience led to many of James's ideas.

 

16/ I Think it would be interesting to know more about the lyrical direction of Unsilence. Which themes do you prefer? And wherefrom do you get inspiration?

 

JAMES KILMURRAY For me the inspiration behind the lyrics and music are strongly linked. The ideas tend to start off as music first. They already have an atmosphere and mood before the lyrics exist so it’s been important to me to try and add to what’s already there. There’s definitely no formula for doing this.

 

A lot of my own ideas for music have been inspired by places I have been to. Sometimes it’s the really wild remote places that have given rise to ideas and sometimes it’s been totally random places that fire off the imagination. So the lyrics that have worked best for me in the past have tended to be the ones that fit in to these abstract worlds.

 

Also, in the past I’ve tried to match the lyrics to the way the music progresses as a song.

 

Similarly to how musicians are influenced by the music they hear, a lot of the lyrics are influenced by things you read. I’ve never written a song lyric that’s directly about a book but I’ve definitely been inspired by the mood of books I have read. A couple of examples that jump out are ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert and ‘The Idylls of the King’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

 

KIERON TUOHEY I have contributed to some of the lyrics, although not as much now. I've generally wrote about the struggles throughout life.

 

17/ Are there any plans to release a your latest work as vinyl edition?

 

KIERON TUOHEY There isn't any plans right now to release the album on vinyl. But we'd love to and we're open to offers.

 

18/ The bass player James Moffatt and you are also playing in The Human Condition. How did your envolvement in another Doom Metal band came about? Is there any facet you can not live out with Unsilence?

 

KIERON TUOHEY The Human Condition is the brainchild of our former/present stand-in drummer Jonathon Gibbs. He left us to start a job down south and he joined The River whilst he was there. He then became a father and he moved back up north. He started working on material which among other things incorporated the style of The River and which he wanted to play guitar on. Although our drummer has recently left so he's temporarily doing drums and I'm the only guitarist. He asked me if I'd like to help as a lead guitarist. And then it developed into a band. He got James Moffatt to join after his old band Misericorde split. And then of course after Elliott left us, It was just obvious to ask James to play bass for us. I was originally ally going to play bass on the album but I would have needed to practice and there was a lot of stuff with the guitar that I needed to take care of.

 

Unsilence is my main band creatively. I haven't written anything for The Human Condition other than a riff I've contributed to a new song. And it's possible that I might do some writing in the future. But it's a band which I'm happy to be a part of. But with Jonathon, he had his experience with The River and I think he wanted to maintain their approach in his music and also play guitar.

 

We have recorded one demo and have gigged sporadically. The debut Human Condition album has been recorded. We are about to make it available through Bandcamp with a CD release happening later in the year.

 

The debut Human Condition album has been recorded. We are about to make it available through Bandcamp with a CD release happening later in the year.

 

19/ Can you tell us in which direction Unsilence will move on? What can we expect from the next work?

 

KIERON TUOHEY We're now settling into writing new material. We hadn't written anything for a while after the last album. This is usually the case. We'll put all our resources into whatever we're working on at the present time and we'll feel we've made our best work. It will take some time to think beyond that.Right now the material is shaping to be more diverse than the last album. But it will take what we've learned from then in terms of the powerful delivery.

 

20/ Thank you very much, Kieron! The last words are yours.

 

KIERON TUOHEY There's not a lot more to say except. Thanks you for the interview. It's always appreciated. Check our website and Facebook for updates. We also plan to have some new T-shirts with the "A Fire on the Sea" album cover design.



A FIRE ON THE SEA

The new album from Unsilence, out now on Nine Records (Poland). Availible on CD and download, click here to order.

 

UNDER A TORN SKY

The debut album from Unsilence, still available on CD, Vinyl and download. Click here for more info.